Dutch Supreme Court upholds Srebrenica liability

Clay Curtis
July 19, 2019

The Dutch Supreme Court is ruling Friday in a long-running legal battle over whether the Netherlands can be held liable in the deaths of more than 300 Muslim men who were murdered by Bosnian Serb forces during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

The court said the state had 10% liability, as this was the probability that its soldiers could have prevented the killings.

Over the course of six days, Bosnian Serb forces and Serbian paramilitaries systematically killed more than 8,000 Bosniaks in Srebrenica, ruled as an act of genocide by global courts.

In 2002, a report into the Netherlands' role at Srebrenica caused the entire Dutch government to resign.

During the Bosnian war (1992-1995), Dutch UN peacekeepers were tasked with protecting Muslim civilians from Bosnian Serb force near the town of Srebrenica.

The court estimated their chance of survival if they had stayed in the Dutch compound at around 30% and said the Dutch state was liable for 30% of losses suffered by their surviving relatives. In February this year, the supreme court's advocate general described that ruling as incomprehensible.

In March 1994, 400 lightly-armed peacekeepers of Dutchbat, the Dutch battalion were sent to Srebrenica under United Nations command to protect the enclave which had been declared a "safe area".

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What did the court say?

The Supreme Court found that the Dutch forces could have allowed those men to stay in the base and that, by handing them over, they had knowingly and unlawfully sent them to possible abuse or death at the hands of the Bosnian Serb troops.

Today's verdict is the final verdict of the highest judicial body in the Netherlands, and it was adopted after the appeal from 2017 filed by the representatives of families of the victims killed in Srebrenica on the identical verdict of the District Court in The Hague, brought in 2014.

In a swipe at the failure of other foreign powers to act, the top court added that the "chance of Dutchbat (the Dutch UN mission) receiving effective support from the global community was slim".

But the enclave - including Dutch UN positions - was heavily shelled by Bosnian Serb troops who demanded Muslims give up their weapons and hand themselves over.

11 July: Bigger than 20,000 refugees hotfoot to main Dutch rotten at Potocari.

13 July: First killings of unarmed Muslims occur advance village of Kravica.

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